© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner To Step Down

Massachusetts Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland has announced plans to leave the post.  Freeland has helped to shape college education in Massachusetts for four decades.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick praised Freeland, calling him a true champion of the state’s public colleges and universities.

" A big loss. He will step down at the end of the academic year."

Freeland, 73, will step down after six years as the state’s higher education commissioner. During his tenure he pushed for higher standards at the state’s 29 public colleges and universities and for greater accountability.

" The community college reform we worked on for example was a result of his extraordinary leadership and the work we've done to make higher education more affordable, " said Patrick.

The state board of higher education at its meeting Tuesday in Fall River authorized a search committee to recommend a successor to Freeland.

Freeland’s greatest accomplishment as higher education commissioner was the creation two years ago of the Vision Project, a strategic plan for improving the academic standing of the state’s higher education system, which ranks in the middle compared to other states.

Freeland, in an interview last year, said Massachusetts, which relies on brainpower to drive its economy cannot afford to have a public higher education system that is just average.

" We need first-class public institutions to drive the workforce in this economy."

To promote the plan to improve the state’s public colleges and universities, Freeland traveled across the state meeting with business and civic groups to rally support for more funding for higher education. In return he promised accountability.

The legislature, last year, approved his plan to base up to half the appropriations to the state’s 15 community colleges on performance, including graduation rates.  A similar funding formula is being considered for the nine state universities.

Freeland clashed with community college presidents over a plan in 2012 to centralize governance of the campuses.  The reorganization led to a greater emphasis on workforce development programs tailored to the particular needs of the regions where the 15 community college are  located.

Earlier this year, Freeland said Holyoke Community College, under president William Messner was a leader in the statewide agenda.

" President Messner has taken the lead, for example, in reaching out to the new casino industry to make sure there is a workforce supply. This campus is a leader in STEM-oriented work."

Freeland held several administrative positions with the University of Massachusetts starting in 1970 when his first assignment was to develop what would become the UMass Boston Campus.

In 1992 Freeland left UMass Boston to become vice chancellor of academic affairs at the City University of New York.

He was named president of Northeastern University in 1996 and during his 10 years there is credited with turning it from a commuter school into a nationally recognized research institution.

Freeland plans to return to Northeastern to teach history after he steps down as higher education commissioner in June.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
Related Content